Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Inquiring of the Lord with idols in our hearts

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Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me.
And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them?
Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the Lord will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols;
That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols.
¶Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.
For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to inquire of him concerning me; I the Lord will answer him by myself:
And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the Lord. (Ezekiel 14:1-8)

This block of verses have some puzzling things in them.  The elders of Israel come to Ezekiel to inquire of the Lord through him, but the Spirit tells Ezekiel that the elders did not inquire sincerely and that they still have idols in their hearts.

The Lord tells Ezekiel something strange He will do to people who do this – “I the Lord will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols; That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols.” (v4-5)  He says further that “I the Lord will answer him by myself: And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.” (v7-8)

What is it these people are doing?  They are likening the words of the prophets to themselves, but because of the idols in their hearts (things they love more than God, sins they prefer more than God) they are likening the words of the prophets in a way that will justify them in committing their favorite sins.   This is what it means when the Lord says He will answer them according to their idols.  It is not that the Lord wants them to interpret His words as they do, but they take an edifying message and twist it to their purposes.

However, that doesn’t free them from the negative consequences, and the Lord declares these people will eventually be cut off from among the people, which means they will leave the church or be excommunicated.  You see, any time someone prefers a sin or idol to God and interprets God’s words to encourage them in that, they set a course that will lead them by degrees out of the church.

How does this help us today?  It shows us God knows perfectly well that people bent on keeping their favorite sins use His words to justify themselves and He also knows the consequences and warns all of us against trying that trick (and all of us may find ourselves in that situation at once time or another.)  We have everything to lose and nothing to gain by doing that.

How much better it is to use the word of God to show us what sins we have to give up and then use the Atonement!  This reminds me how important it is to pray with real intent and sincerity when praying for guidance.